Roger Hajjar, MD, an internationally recognized scientist whose cardiac gene therapy discoveries have spurred clinical trials for heart failure, and whose methodologies for cardiac-directed gene transfer are currently utilized by investigators around the world, has been appointed as the inaugural director of the Gene and Cell Therapy Institute at Mass General Brigham following a year-long nationwide search.
In this position, Hajjar will foster a world-class Gene and Cell Therapy Institute that will leverage ongoing, groundbreaking research efforts at Mass General Brigham and will recruit leading scientists conducting cutting-edge projects. The objective of the Gene and Cell Therapy Institute will be to translate the scientific discoveries made by Mass General Brigham researchers to first-in-human clinical trials and, ultimately, life-changing treatments for patients.
“We are delighted that Dr. Hajjar is bringing his renowned leadership and expertise in research and development to Mass General Brigham to help cement our Gene and Cell Therapy Institute as among the best in the world,” said Anne Klibanski, MD, President and CEO of Mass General Brigham. “It is an exciting time in gene and cell therapy, where research breakthroughs hold the promise of providing elusive treatments for some of the most difficult-to-treat diseases impacting our patients and those across the globe. Dr. Hajjar will help usher in a new era of discovery for our health system in achieving these treatment goals.”
Hajjar will also work closely with Mass General Brigham Innovation to seed new research projects, commercialize novel therapy delivery platforms and treatments and form academic-industry partnerships to support gene and cell therapy research. He previously served as the Head of Research and Development at Ring Therapeutics, a Flagship Pioneering Company, since 2019. Prior to that role, Hajjar served as the Director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York from 2007 to 2019.
“Scientists and clinicians throughout Mass General Brigham are working on some of the leading gene and cell therapy projects in their respective fields, and it is a true privilege and opportunity of a lifetime to collaborate with them and help them translate their major biological discoveries into first-in-human therapies,” said Hajjar. “Our fundamental mission at Mass General Brigham will be to ensure that our patients have access to the most cutting-edge clinical trials in gene and cell therapy, and to bring these treatments beyond our walls to impact care for patients around the world with critical unmet needs.”
Hajjar received his MD from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology before completing a residency and clinical and research fellowships in cardiology and heart failure at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Following his training, he joined the faculty of MGH and Harvard Medical School from 1997 to 2006.
Hajjar’s early work at MGH involved studying patients with heart failure and identifying different proteins and molecules within the cardiac cell that could be targeted therapeutically. Many of his patients with severe heart failure had few treatment options, which led him to look towards gene therapy. His research conducted at MGH, including the development of gene transfer methods to deliver therapeutics to the heart, has brought multiple developments to cardiac gene therapies, including the launch of multiple clinical trials for cardiovascular diseases.
An award-winning investigator, Dr. Hajjar has authored more than 500 peer-reviewed publications and lectured internationally on his research.
As the largest basic research academic medical center in the United States, Mass General Brigham is home to more than 400 leading gene and cell therapy researchers from five nationally ranked academic medical centers: Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Mass Eye and Ear, McLean Hospital and Spaulding Rehabilitation.
Gene therapy involves the process of replacing or modifying genes to correct a deficiency, which could profoundly affect congenital diseases caused by genetic mutations. Cell therapy involves replacing or modifying cells to treat diseases, and this treatment modality is increasingly utilized to provide personalized therapy approaches for diseases such as cancer.
Research at Mass General Brigham spans multiple medical disciplines garnering more than $2.3 billion in research funding annually. Increasingly, this funding supports the development of new gene and cell therapy delivery platforms, clinical trials, and novel treatments for diseases, including cancer, heart disease, blinding vision disorders, degenerative neurological conditions, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases. These discoveries have led to the establishment of numerous companies focusing on developing and commercializing these life-changing therapies including Verve Therapeutics (cardiovascular disease) and Akouos (hearing loss).
Mass General Brigham is an integrated academic health care system, uniting great minds to solve the hardest problems in medicine for our communities and the world. Mass General Brigham connects a full continuum of care across a system of academic medical centers, community and specialty hospitals, a health insurance plan, physician networks, community health centers, home care, and long-term care services. Mass General Brigham is a nonprofit organization committed to patient care, research, teaching, and service to the community. In addition, Mass General Brigham is one of the nation’s leading biomedical research organizations with several Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals. For more information, please visit massgeneralbrigham.org.